Is There an iPhone ‘Kill Switch’?

Antone Gonsalves of InformationWeek has written a very interesting article for the publication about the discovery by a hacker that the iPhone can download a list of “unauthorized” applications and disable them.

From the article:

A hacker who discovered a mechanism on the iPhone that downloads a list of unauthorized applications from Apple has challenged speculation that the technology is an application “kill switch.” Jonathan Zdziarski, author of the books iPhone Forensics and iPhone Open Application Development, said on his blog that there’s no evidence to support the conspiracy theories that traveled throughout the blogging community as a result of his discovery.

“We do not know just how active this mechanism is,” Zdziarski said. “It might vaporize applications. It might simply prevent them from using the GPS [global positioning system]. For all we know, it could trigger world war three, or it could cause some computer somewhere to spit out recipes for buttermilk pancakes.”

Zdziarski discovered in the iPhone a cache that can hold a list of unauthorized applications and a URL to a page on Apple’s servers. The URL is apparently used to download a new list from time to time.

PC World blogger Brennon Slattery has a very insightful blog posting on this as well.

From the blog:

As of today, iPhone tethering NetShare, movie listing generator BoxOffice, and the idiotic $1000 “I Am Rich” app-which did absolutely nothing-have vanished from the iTunes App Store without notice.

But to be clear, these applications have not been murdered by a mysterious Apple “kill switch.” The so-called “kill switch” remains more mystery than anything else. Zdziarski confesses on research notes posted to his site he knows little about what the code he found does: “We do not know whether this mechanism is active, or what exactly it does.

Nevertheless iPhone developers are beginning to say “hey, wait a minute” as they ponder developing software under the influence of Apple’s apparent fickle whims. Many are now asking questions about this “kill switch” wondering could their hard work vanish from iPhones at the flip of a switch?

Interestingly enough, as far as I have seen, Apple has yet to comment on this finding. With the iPhone being such a widely popular device, it will be interesting to see what develops from this finding, if anything. Thoughts?

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One Comment on “Is There an iPhone ‘Kill Switch’?”

  1. […] Jobs Confirms iPhone Kill Switch As a follow up to my earlier post, Steve Jobs has now confirmed that there is a “Kill Switch” on Apple’s […]

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